May 22, 2024

Singapore organ trading scandal

Retail magnate charged with buying kidney

Tang Wee SungA retail magnate has become the first person in
Singapore to be charged with buying organs. Tang Wee Sung was prepared
to pay S$300,000 (US$222,000) for a kidney from an impoverished Indonesian
posing as a relative. Mr Tang had severe diabetes and is on dialysis and
apparently has only a five-year life expectancy without a transplant. Most
Singaporeans in similar plights pay for kidneys in India or China, but organ
trading is currently illegal there.

His prospective donor, Sulaiman
Damanik, 26, had been out of work for months and is supporting aged parents. He
was to have been paid S$23,700 (US$17,500). He was recruited by a man from the
same village who had already sold his own kidney to a Singaporean woman. Both
were sentenced to light jail terms and small fines.  

Singapore is striving to promote
the lucrative medical tourism business and is determined not to become a hub
for black market organ trading. The Singapore Medical Association is opposed to
organ sales because of its potential for exploiting the poor. It called for
“tremendous resources” to enforce the current ban.

On the other hand, the government
is sending confusing messages about the issue. Health minister Khaw Boon Wan
declared recently that “If [an organ transplant] is motivated by financial
transactions, then we think it is definitely wrong, morally and legally.”
However, with the Tang case getting blanket coverage in Singapore, he took a more
favourable view
. “I think we should not write off or reject the idea of
selling organs. But I think we need to study it carefully,” he said.